27. Bike city - What the rest of Canada can learn from Vancouver

Tags: Energy Efficiency, Transportation

Published January 22, 2013

Blog: Why 12 per cent of all trips in Vancouver are by bike – It’s simpler than you think

As anybody who has seen astronaut Chris Hadfield’s incredible images from space can attest, the single most prominent human-made features of cities like TorontoWindsor or Edmonton are roads. As seen from space the new Anthony Henday ring road forms a dramatic necklace around our home base of Edmonton.

And ever since the 1950s the car has been the accidental architect of our cities. Billions of dollars have been dedicated to roads, overpasses, tunnels and other car infrastructure. As it turns out this infrastructure isn't always friendly to communities, pedestrians, cyclists or public transit-users.

But now there is a serious movement afoot to in Canada’s cities to reduce commute times, cut pollution and save on very expensive roads.

As our country becomes more and more urban it’s clear that while our cities will continue to grow in size and population there’s only so many roads that lead to the places people want to go. This leads to everyone’s favourite way to wile away a few hours a day – traffic gridlock.

As Andrew Coyne says in Macleans “Traffic is slowly strangling our cities.” Increasing traffic uses more fuel, increases pollution and commute times and Coyne quotes a German study which finds that “being in heavy traffic triples your risk of a heart attack within an hour.”

Enter the bicycle. It is the most efficient form of transportation on the planet. You can move five times faster than walking and go three times as far on the same amount of caloric energy. Cars use 50 to 80 times more energy than a bike to travel the same distance and as any public heath expert will tell you North America is suffering from rising obesity rates. More…

Podcast: How one kilometer of bike lanes sparked a revolution

CKUA logo

When you talk about the tipping point in Vancouver's efforts to get people cycling it was easy for city councillor Heather Deal to pinpoint it. 

"A couple of years ago we made the decision to close a lane of the Burrard Street bridge to cars and make it a bike lane. That was a game changer. That was the first time we took space away from cars. I was assigned the media, I thought this is the last time I’ll ever get elected because I’m going down over 1 km of 1 lane for traffic.“

Deal was worried but her fears were misplaced. It opened without a hitch and she and her party went on to win another election and to install even more bike lanes. Learn how Vanouver embraced the bike and how they're lowering traffic congestion, reducing carbon emissions, helping Vancouverites get healthy all while spending far less than you would on road infrastructure. 

Quick Facts

The amount of C02 required for different modes of transport per passenger kilometer:

Car = 229 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer

Bus = 95 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer

Bike = 14 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer


Vancouver cycling ridership stats 

Burrad Bridge - Year over year growth in ridership from April 2011 to March 2012 - 5 per cent

Dunsmuir Viaduct - Year over year growth in ridership from 2011 to March - 19 per cent



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New Study Investigates Potential of Cycling to Reduce Emissions

Key findings include:

Emissions from cycling are over 10 times lower than those stemming from the passenger car, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorised transport user.

Bicycle-share schemes also have the potential to reduce further emissions, considering it is a substitute for motorised transport for 50-75% of the users. GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency


Cycle more Often 2 cool down the planet: Quantifying CO2 Savings of Cycling

European Cycling Federation photosets - Flickr

The City of Vancouver's portal on their cycling efforts - City of Vancouver

A blog post breaking down the effect separated bikes lanes have had on ridership - The Bike Route